More SA players get a crack at Super Rugby opposition
CROSS-BORDER PREVIEW: Last Sunday’s convincing victory by the Wild Knights against the Chiefs has set the Cross-Border Rugby series alight ahead of its second weekend, with the Chiefs looking to respond against the Spears.
Meanwhile, the Blues will look to complete their visit to Japan unbeaten by defeating the Eagles.
Both matches take place on Saturday with the Chiefs kicking off the early game seeking to bounce back while the reigning Japan Rugby League One champions bid to follow up on the success of the side that they beat in last year’s Final, by also taking down the New Zealand outfit.
All Black midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown returns and will captain the Chiefs in his first outing of the year, teaming in the midfield with international colleague Quinn Tupaea, whose performance was one of the few bright spots for the visitors on their Japanese debut.
Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has made nine changes to the starting XV that lost at the Wild Nights, with three All Blacks featuring in the run-on side.
His Spears counterpart Frans Ludeke is without Wallaby flyhalf Bernard Foley and All Black hooker Dane Coles, but Wales fullback Liam Williams gets his first look at a side from Super Rugby.
There is a South African influence to the starting muster, with four of the run-on XV – hooker Schalk Erasmus, locks JD Schickerling and Ruan Botha, and centre Rikus Pretorius – born in the Republic.
Up the road from Yokohama in Tokyo, the Blues go for back-to-back victories against an Eagles side missing the injured Springbok pair, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and centre Jesse Kriel.
However, they still have an experienced line-up that includes fullback Jumpei Ogara and utility forward Sione Halasili from the Brave Blossoms’ World Cup squad and Wallaby tournament representative, lock Matthew Phillip.
Blues boss Vern Cotter has also made nine changes to the side that comfortably took care of Sungoliath on the opening weekend, with the introduction of All Black wing Caleb Clarke the most notable alteration to a combination that scored seven tries in the 43-7 hammering it administered in the opening game of The Cross Border Rugby series.
Ultra Instinct this weekend 🤝🏽
Caleb on both wings
Sam Darry named captainADVERTISEMENT
We’re on here pic.twitter.com/5awCbAarzI
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) February 8, 2024
With the Super Rugby season fast closing in for the New Zealand sides, and only 13 days from Saturday until the Chiefs open the competition against the defending champion Crusaders, both visitors will be looking to depart Japan on the back of convincing performances.
For the Eagles and Spears, the opportunity is there to join the Wild Knights in beating a Super Rugby side, creating their own bit of history in the process.
The Cross-Border Rugby 2024:
Saturday, February 3
Blues 43-7 Sungoliath
Sunday, February 4
Wild Knights 38-14 Chiefs
Saturday, February 10 (Japan kick-off times):
Eagles v Blues – 12.10
Spears v Chiefs – 14.30